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Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Microsoft Excel 2010

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Though 2010 is not a major changeover as compared to 2007 version, it certainly encompasses some handy, bold features which make it a hard-to-resist package. Following is an overview of the top 10 reasons which make it such a compelling factor to upgrade to Excel 2010. The features covered in this review are: customizability of the ribbon, backstage feature, protected view, larger file sizes, sparklines, slicers, improvements in conditional formatting, charting enhancements, pivot table refinements, and excel web app.
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Excel – what an appropriate title to a tool which has helped so many accountants, scientists, professors, and many others to excel in their respective professions! If you are one of those people who have been using Excel since the 1990’s, then you’ve likely found yourself wishing that Excel had a specific option or a certain feature that would make your life easier.

Well, the team at Microsoft heard your cries! Though Excel 2010 is not a major changeover as compared to the Office 2007 version, it certainly encompasses some handy, bold features which make it a hard-to-resist package. Here are the top ten compelling reasons for upgrading to Excel 2010.

1. Take the Ribbon by the Horns

Many of us have complained that we had to surrender our menu control and comfort to the Ribbon since its launch in Office 2007. The Ribbon, supposed to be smooth as a silk (by the name at least), was very rigid in its composition and presentation and adding a new group or tab into the Ribbon was almost impossible (except by using some third party tools). With 2010, this takes a positive turn and you are now in full control of what you see on the Ribbon. The days of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) is over, and the Ribbon is completely customizable, allowing you to decide that What You Need Is What You Get.

2. Backstage is the New Center Stage

Backstage view, the new value-add provided in Excel 2010 replaces the File menu / Office button (2007) with jam packed features. Many of the regular activities like save, print, publish, and share are all made one-click jobs from within Backstage, and it even contains a handy print preview section. This houses a lot of features within – so much so that Backstage could easily become center stage.

3. Protected View

Excel 2010 ships with a bundle of added protection / safety measures. Suppose you are downloading a file from the Web and trying to edit the same, the file would open up only in “Protected” mode – which means, you can only view the file, and not edit it. This ensures that the auto-executing scripts and file open bombs are blocked from invading you.

You will see a bar just below the Ribbon (more like today’s Macro warning bar in 2007) which indicates clearly that the file has been opened in Protected view, and giving you an option to open it in editable mode.

4. Large to Larger

Though not many people get to build up data within excel files to a size that brings down performance while filtering & sorting, there are a few Power users who would end up notching that limit – especially if they are using Excel as a data store combined with MIS reporting. There is certainly good news for them in Excel 2010 as the new 64-bit 2010 version adds more teeth to Excel to handle issues related to the RAM size (earlier, RAM in excess of 2 GB was not utilized appropriately).

So, go ahead and build larger files without worrying about dropping performance levels in critical filter and sort operations! Incidentally, Excel 2010 also supports high-performance computing using clusters.

5. Add More Spark with Sparklines

Edward Tufte, the inventor of the concept of Sparklines (see his book “Beautiful Evidence” for more) defines the concept of sparklines thus: “...little data lines, because of their active quality over time, are called sparklines: small, high resolution graphics embedded in a context of words, numbers, images. Sparklines are data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics”.

Excel 2010 brought this concept to life, and Sparklines is now added to the analysis and presentation arsenal. The Sparklines feature enables delivery of a clear and compact visual representation of a dataset with small charts within worksheet cells, clearly as visualized by Ed Tufte.

Sparklines are deployed in the financial realm to visually summarize trends alongside data. This would certainly help in building up a compact MIS dashboard.

6. Not Just Dice, but Slice and Dice with Slicers

Slicers offer an easy but excellent way to visually filter the data in PivotTables. Having inserted a slicer using the Insert menu, one can use the slices on display to quickly segment and filter the data to display just what is needed.

Slicers are reusable components – usable within PivotTables, PivotCharts and other data connections / data cubes. This feature helps you save time in formatting and gets you that bit of extra time which you always need for analysis and review.

7. Do More with Conditional formatting

Conditional formatting has been around for a while now, enhanced in the 2007 version by introduction of icon sets and data bars. In the 2010 version, we have new icon sets added to the toolbox, and more importantly, the choice is available to selectively display icons – for instance, display red signals for negative growth alone, but not to display any icons for positive growth or status quo.

Additionally, it is now possible to refer to values in other worksheets also. Greater flexibility and better accuracy is introduced through negative data bars, and with the fills and borders feature extended to data bars.

8. Chart Your Way Up

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a Chart should be worth tens of thousands of words. What cannot be understood by sifting through thousands of rows of data, can be understood in a minute by looking at a well prepared chart.

Excel 2010 makes it even easier and better to work with charts, by increasing the data point limits (you can now have as much as 32,000 data points!) and also by allowing you to record formatting actions through the Macro recorder, so that you can easily redo your formatting to other charts too.

One other noticeable improvement is the speed of rendering charts, which had actually come down in 2007 (based on a sample study involving a six series chart, it was noticed that Office 2007 was 14.7 times slower than 2003, but with the revised engine of 2010, it is now just 1.3 times slower than 2003, but significantly faster than 2007).

9. PivotTables Get the Attention

PivotTables have always been the favorites of Excel power users, but as with any other tool, it gets bogged down with increased volume of data. Excel 2010 has identified the need to support and upgrade this excellent tool, and has done a few simple but appealing changes (in addition to Slicers), to make PivotTables even better.

Search facility brought in for easy filtering of data, and to quickly zero in on the specific item amongst the millions of data items.

The new multi-threaded calculation now makes it possible to have speedy calculations.

The feature of multi-threaded sorting, which is a new one, can be turned on or off, and can help in quick sorting.

Undo support has been introduced for large PivotTables, and the “Show Values As” has been improved as well.

Write-back support is now provided for sending back data to the original OLAP data cubes.

10. Freedom to Be Mobile

With the introduction of Excel Web App, the online companion to Excel, you can now access and work with your files from virtually anywhere in the world, just the connectivity is all that you need. In fact, you can access and work on your file from a computer (desktop), mobile phone, and Web browser. You would not need to download any additional software to work on your file, and that gives you the power to just go ahead and roam freely - login from any system or smartphones to complete your work on a holiday. You can also do a collaborative editing with others on the same workbook at the same time.

Conclusion

What is narrated above is only a brief list of some top notch features of Excel 2010. To really cherish the value of the new elements, you must upgrade and experience it hands-on. It is well known and accepted fact that experience is certainly better than hearsay.

So, take the plunge, upgrade, and fall in love with Excel 2010!

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